French-speaking nations meet in Armenia
Macron told the International Organisation of Francophonie that the two-day summit can contribute to international peace.
Created in 1970, the organisation said it had 85 member states and governments, many of them in Africa, representing 274 million French speakers. Its primary mission is to promote the use of the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity. It said 38 president or prime ministers were attending the Yerevan summit.
Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldova and Romania are also members and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine have observer status.
Armenia, which has around 10,000 French speakers among its population of 3 million, joined in 2004 as France is home to an estimated 500,000 ethnic Armenians, and sizeable communities live in Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and other Francophone countries.
Macron also controversially visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan to pay tribute to the victims of the Armenian genocide under the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey is notoriously thin-skinned on the issue and refuses to accept that the Ottoman authorities carried out a systematic policy of extermination during the First World War. Macron’s gesture in Yerevan might well strain bilateral ties with Ankara.
Macron plans to visit Azerbaijan, which is locked in a protracted conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, in 2019 and wants to conduct a separate visit to Armenia while he is still in office, according to his staff.
The United Arab Emirates is attending for the first time as a participating member, after previously holding an observer role, saying the organisation helps promote security, peace, democracy, respect for human rights and cultural diversity.
Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s minister of state, said the membership reflected the deeply rooted friendship and cooperation between the Gulf emirates and French-speaking countries.
“We, in the UAE, are aware that the French language promotes cultural diversity, as it carries forward the values of tolerance and cultural pluralism. The French language is also an important part of the human heritage,” the minister added.
Popular French singer Zaz performed in Yerevan’s Republic Square, in a concert dedicated to French singer Charles Aznavour, the son of Armenian immigrants, who died this month at 94.
Yerevan. Picture credit: Wikimedia